In its editorial on "Life" values in the 2008 presidential campaign, the Los Angeles Times notes that Republican hopeful Mike Huckabee's position on abortion "has the value of consistency: If you believe abortion is murder, you have no choice but to fight it at all levels." Huckabee is an extremely likable guy. His personality, demeanor and ability to speak clearly and understandably about his views all resonate with many Republican voters. Huckabee has become the George W. Bush of the early part of the election cycle a candidate most Americans can relate to. Unfortunately, he has followed in his predecessor's footsteps in one area that he should have avoided.
During a recent interview with Tim Russert, Huckabee claimed, "Our founding fathers said that we're all created equal. I think every person has intrinsic worth and value.... It's a human belief. It goes to the heart of who we are as a civilization." This sentiment opposition to abortion because of an unwavering belief in the value of human life is frequently repeated in many pro-life circles.
When analyzing Huckabee's platform more closely, however, a major contradiction arises. Huckabee claims to value the "sanctity of every and each human life." Yet, he also declares that capital punishment is needed within American society. In the Republican YouTube debate debate, Huckabee stated that "there is a place for the death penalty. Some crimes are so heinous, so horrible, that the only response that we as a civilized nation have for a most uncivil action is not only to try to deter that person from ever committing that crime again, but also as a warning to others that some crimes truly are beyond any other capacity for us to fix."
In the same debate, Huckabee pointed out that he had to make the ultimate decision more than "any other governor in Arkansas history." That feat is strikingly similar to one performed by the current Republican president during his own governorship. As governor of Texas, Bush presided over more than 150 executions in six years more than any other U.S. governor since the reinstitution of the death penalty.
During the interview with Russert, Huckabee declared "that your intrinsic worth is not changed by your ancestry, your last name, by your IQ ... if I value your life and respect it with dignity and worth because it is human, then that's what draws me to the inescapable conclusion that I should be for the sanctity of every and each human life."
In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that executions of mentally retarded criminals are "cruel and unusual punishment" and violate the 8th Amendment. However, the high court did not limit state or federal governments' ability to execute the mentally ill. Currently, the legal system issues an IQ evaluation to determine the mental retardation of a death-eligible individual. These tests are extremely subjective; an individual can be assessed a score of 76 today and 70 tomorrow. That can make the difference between living in prison without the possibility of parole or being put to death.
Although mental retardation is a factor in many instances, a larger proportion of death-eligible crimes are committed by individuals who have endured horrific backgrounds. Most sexual predators have been molested themselves. Many serial murderers have predictable, if not uniform social histories. Does this not mean that they, in fact, are partially innocent of the heinous crimes they committed?
Innocence in the womb may be indisputable. But innocence on death row is entirely subjective. If Huckabee and others wish to be consistent in their pro-life stance, then one of these positions must be altered.
Elliot Slosar is a national board member of Students Against the Death Penalty and was the co-founder of the Abolition in Illinois Movement and the founder of DePaul Students Against the Death Penalty.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times